Thursday 22 August 2019

In Focus: How Shane Lowry's 'Clara Jug' was forged in white heat of sports dynasty


The All-Ireland winning Offaly team of 1982, with Brendan Lowry front row, second from left. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
The All-Ireland winning Offaly team of 1982, with Brendan Lowry front row, second from left. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
21 July 2019; Shane Lowry of Ireland celebrates with his parents, Bridget and Brendan, after winning The Open Championship on Day Four of the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Portrush, Co Antrim. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Shane Lowry's dad Brendan Lowry congratulates his son
Dad Brendan holds the trophy aloft. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Despite housing less than 80,000 people, Offaly has crafted two of the most memorable sporting moments in Ireland's storied history with one name - Lowry - being at the forefront of both.

The midlands rejoiced when Shane Lowry became 2019's 'Champion Golfer' by lifting the Claret Jug - renamed the Clara Jug after his hometown - as winner of the Open Championship by a scarcely believable six shots in Portrush on Sunday.

Banking a winners' cheque of €1.73m and climbing to 17th in the world rankings, Lowry etched his place in sporting folklore 37 years after his father Brendan, and uncles Seán and Mick, helped end Kerry's dreams of five All-Ireland SFC titles in a row.

While Seamus Darby's famous goal signifies the 1982 final, Brendan fired over three points to leave them in the position for a famous pickpocket.

Much like Offaly's defeat to Kerry in the previous year's decider, Shane had endured heartbreak at the US Open in Oakmont three years ago when relinquishing a four-shot lead on the final day but neither hesitated when the chance arose again.

Brendan turned 60 last Friday and was given the perfect birthday gift but for him, "there's no comparison" emotionally when one of your own achieves something like this.

There was no need for a Darby moment to steal it as Lowry shot a course record 63 on Saturday to assume pole position before showing nerves of steel with wind and driving rain unable to halt his gallop on Sunday.

Offaly hurling legend Joe Dooley has golfed with Lowry several times as both are members of the Esker Hills Club. The Tullamore course can now proudly call itself home to a major champion.

Dooley tracked Lowry at this year's Irish Open in Lahinch and speaks of a family steeped in sporting royalty with Shane's ice cool veins "in the genes".

"When you talk about football in Offaly, the Lowrys have represented Offaly on more occasions than any other family. They're all grounded and down to earth, Shane is a copy and paste from them," the three-time All-Ireland winner said.

"We don't realise how lucky we are to have him and Sunday was like the morning of an All-Ireland final. Winning All-Irelands is one thing but the level he is at is totally different.

"It's unreal. And he's still the same Shane Lowry as when he won the Irish Open as an amateur 10 years ago."

It is lean times in the Faithful county with Offaly relegated to the Christy Ring Cup - hurling's third tier - and their footballers operating from Division 3 in the League, but Lowry is flying the flag. In his own words, he "was always a bit too slow for the big ball".

But despite leaving the GAA in his teens when a game of pitch and putt stirred something in him, his love of the GAA has always shone bright.

As chair of the fundraising committee for the Faithful Fields, Offaly GAA's state of the art training facilities, former Offaly hurler Michael Duignan asked Lowry to help out and he delivered with a Golf Classic/Gala Dinner raising €100,000.

"He organised the prizes, bought auction prizes, he went around and met every single team. He shook hands and chatted to them, got pictures with them and then went to the dinner," he said.

"He left in the early hours and pretty much went straight to the airport to fly to Austin, Texas at 6am to prepare for a tournament.

"His generosity was just incredible to see."

All sorts of doors have been opened for Lowry with next year's Ryder Cup and more major success on his radar. His life has changed forever but the humility of the 32-year-old never will.

Irish Independent

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